Mayan Jade Celt with Engraving

SKU PF.4640

500 AD to 1000 AD


5.75″ (14.6cm) high





Gallery Location



In Maya art the critical issue is not who did something, but what he did. Extraordinary events of great prowess, such as victors in the ballgame, or nobles in communion with gods, were important for the power such occasions could acquire. This power could then by retained through their depiction in art, such as on this very beautiful celt. The Maya believed that blood was the most crucial element of life; in fact the source of life and the shedding of ones blood was necessary to placate the gods for the general well being of society. As a great public spectacle, the Maya king would perforate his penis and his wife her tongue. The blood was allowed to soak into strips of paper, which were then burned. Due to loss of blood in combination with fasting, the blood letter would hallucinate and see visions of the other world. It is possible the king on this celt is involved in just such a bloodletting ceremony. His delicate hands are opened as if in homage; his face is serene; his eyes so finely drawn, exude a dreamy expression. The towering headdress is like those worn by kings made of cloth and colorful feathers, surmounted by an avian mask or deity. The detail is so remarkable it even shows the nose plug, ear spools and heavy necklace worn by royalty. Another interesting feature is that Maya artists preferred profiles and rarely depicted individuals frontally. This celt is not only a work of art, but also a visual record of a ritual event, which has no parallel in the world, held forever in translucent jade.

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